If you decide to take legal action against your tenant for a fee under £10,000, then the case might be sent to a Small Claims Court. Here, the judge will read all the evidence and decide either to accept your claim and demand that the tenant pays you the costs or delay or dismiss it. To strengthen your case, it is a smart idea that you and any expert witnesses attend the hearing at the small claims court in person.

At CIA Landlord Insurance, we find robust competitively priced landlord insurance packages for landlords, year in, year out. We are landlord insurance experts aware of the sorts of disputes that go on between landlords and tenants. So, we have come up with this guide on how to take a tenant to a Small Claims Court. 

What is a small claims court?

A Small Claims Court hears civil (non-criminal) cases between private parties. The Small Claims Court, through the Small Claims Track and Fast Track, helps individuals and businesses pursue non-payment of sums up to £10,000 without needing a solicitor. 

Unfortunately, sometimes tenants leave a property at the end of their tenancy period while they still have outstanding fees they owe to the landlord. So, a Small Claims Court can come in handy as a legal recourse that helps you to recoup any money that a tenant owes you. 

Image with a post it note saying 'small claims court'.

Try reaching out beforehand with a final warning letter 

Keeping in excellent communication with tenants is important in general, and this applies when you are looking for them to pay you promptly for any money you are owed. 

So, before taking legal action and taking a tenant to a Small Claims Court, be sure to send them a final warning letter with your address and contact details, a summary of the facts, what you want from the defendant and a breakdown of how you have calculated any sums of money you want to claim. 

How to apply to make a claim 

Applying to make a claim through a Small Claims Court is pretty straightforward. You can either do it by post, or online via the HMCTS MoneyclaimOnline system.  28 days is a reasonable amount of time to wait for a response before going ahead and taking a tenant to a Small Claims Court.

Why take a tenant to a Small Claims Court? 

No landlord wants to be wrongfully left out of pocket due to a tenant’s actions or their disregard for the tenancy agreement they signed. There are a range of reasons why you may want to take a tenant to a Small Claims Court including:

Image of magnifying glass and a model house.

How does a Small Claims Court hearing work? 

You will be given a notice of allocation telling you the date and time of the hearing. Remember to follow the ‘directions’ the court gives you beforehand, such as remembering to provide copies of relevant documents to the hearing, failing to do this could mean you have to pay the cost of the court copying them. 

You and any other witnesses can produce a witness statement to the court, but this won’t always be necessary. 

Small Claims Court hearings are fairly informal, the judge won’t wear a wig for instance. In their judgments, the judge can choose to award you some or all of the money that you are claiming, delay the hearing further if they are unsure or awaiting new evidence, or you lose the claim, in which case you won’t receive any money and will have to pay to cover the tenant’s expenses. 

What happens next after winning a small claims case? 

So, you have won a small claims case, and a tenant or ex-tenant now owes you money, what happens now? 

If you win your hearing, the small claims court will order the defendant to pay up within the next 14 days. Should they still fail to pay the costs they owe you after 14 days have elapsed, you can ask the court to ‘enforce the judgment’ and send the bailiffs around to their address, or potentially freeze their assets or take money from their wages. 

Do you have to pay a fee?

Given that you usually don’t need to hire a lawyer to take a tenant to a Small Claims Court, this brings down the overall cost of things drastically. However, you do have to pay a court fee to take a tenant to a small claims court, which is based on the amount you are claiming for plus any interest. 

The court fees for Small Claims Court claims of under £10,000 are shown in the table below

Claim amount Fees
Up to £300 £35
£300.01 to £500 £50
£500.01 to £1,000 £70
£1,000.01 to £1,500 £80
£1,500.01 to £3,000 £115
£3,000.01 to £5,000 £205
£5,000.01 to £10,000 £455

Source: https://www.gov.uk/make-court-claim-for-money/court-fees 

You may also have to pay a fee privately if you decide to consult the opinion of any ‘expert witnesses’ to help support your claim, such as a medical doctor or a financial expert. 

As a landlord, you never know what is around the corner, and therefore it is paramount to always keep yourself covered. Make sure you have comprehensive landlord insurance coverage that protects you for all manner of eventualities by using our services here at CIA Landlords. Interested? 

Get in touch with us today by phoning our friendly expert staff on 01788 818 670, or emailing info@cia-insurance.co.uk

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